Thursday, May 16, 2013

Launching Initiative

Over the last many months, I've been privileged to be part of a fantastic team of volunteers working on a new effort:
This is an effort to help people who are considering moving to Sri Lanka to work and live. 

Me? Move to Sri Lanka?? What?!

Yes, Sri Lanka. No more war. No more bombs. No one trying to (systematically .. yeah we have our share of crazies) kill anyone. Great weather. Majorly improving infrastructure. A second airport (with no flights yet .. but that's ok everyone's gotta start at the bottom!). A real, honest-to-goodness highway (dinner in Galle tonite?) and many more coming. Apartments everywhere. Parks all over Colombo.

Compare that to where you're living? Do you go thru a metal detector to your workplace? Not in Sri Lanka any more. We had a long period of that .. but no more .. war finished in 2009, nearly to the day today (May 18th is the anniversary).

Anyway :-). Our objective is to first be a one-stop-site for anyone who's considering moving to Sri Lanka. Everything you need to know from what kind of jobs are available, how much does housing cost, how much do cars cost to kids schooling to visa stuff. All there, all in one place. All done in an objective, volunteer, independent kind of way. The site is still in its infancy of course .. more to come but its got a lot of stuff already!

With regards to jobs- if you're a senior person returning we will even help you get into the "network" to get into the loop of things. We have a pretty connected set of friends who are helping to get that done. We're also partnering with pretty much every industry body so that we can reach into all of those networks.

Going beyond the information portal we want to become an advocacy group to promote what's good about moving to Sri Lanka and also to work hard on breaking down more barriers. Even ex-Sri Lankans returning have some major barriers in the system now and we want to work towards removing them. 

This was a totally volunteer group of people from all over the place. Check us out at the site!

We had a fantastic launch event on Tuesday (May 14th) evening. We had the Governor of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka come and give the keynote talk and then had a superb panel. More on that coming soon at the site itself.

Check it out and give us your feedback - plenty of places in the site to do that. Enjoy surfing!


nafi925 said...

great work Dr Sanjiva and team, but I have 1 question "Yes we no longer go thru a metal detector, but what are we going to do with the sudden change on racist activities around the country ? how are we going to convince ppl Sri Lanka will be a safe place for the next generation ?"

Sanjiva Weerawarana said...

Very good question. Personally, my belief is that a super majority of the population is not racist. Racism is being used as a powerful political tool by a few people to help themselves achieve their own narrow objectives. Its really no different to the way the Tea Party guys work in the US on a variety of topics.

I assume you're referring to the recent anti-Muslim campaign by BBS (Bodhu Bala Sena .. or Big Bull Shit as I think of them). Yes it seems these people have state support from some folks, which is VERY disappointing. However, only a small percentage of the population agrees with them and, especially, rational Buddhists don't accept their actions as being consistent with what they purport to protect.

End of the day its an individual decision. Each person, each family has to come to the realization that racism is a narrow thing that will only hold you back in the global marketplace. We have changed a LOT on that front in the last 30 years. We have by no means changed enough.

Same is true for the rest of the world .. even the US eliminated some of the segregation stuff only in the 60s. It took another generation to get over the underlying prejudices. Now the US has a strong and grown anti-Muslim racism thing going .. that too will pass but it will take time. In the meantime politicians are using it to help their own little causes, ignoring the damage it does to the nation as a whole.

Unknown said...

Hi Dr. Sanjiva

This is a good move. I read some of the success stories.
Dr. Srinath seem to have a kind of negative view on higher education,and mention this could be a reason that he could leave the country.

Chami also says you can't save much here compare to western.

I'm glad this initiative is trying to create the right picture, but not the one our politiccas trying to create :)

Unknown said...

Great start to a useful site.

A huge issue for returning Sri Lankans is dual citizenship - when is that process going to be formalized by the immigration department? Until then returning lankans have to either give up their foreign citizenship or become second class citizens in Sri Lanka.

One suggestion is to start a feedback section where people thinking of returning raise their issues/questions - this site could then build an FAQ based on feedback.

nafi925 said...

Yes I agree on the point said that only a small group of ppl who are trying to promote racism. Even I was under this impression for few months. But day by day I even see educated ppl who are moving in this direction.As you said I think politicians are using the situation to help their personal agendas.

I wish we as a nation will come out of this strong and hope the silent majority who does not support this will rise and say "we had enough and please stop this shit".

Tharindu Edirisinghe said...

This is great Sir... I've read so many similar sites of other countries but it never occurred to me to check out whether there's one for Sri Lanka... may be because I'm already in Sri Lanka... We really need these kind of work to support the development of our economy and living standard of all Sri Lankans... Keep on the good work..

SAD® said...

This is a super initiative and congratulations and thank you to all those involved for doing this.

However, for this to be a success, I believe the following factor need to be fulfilled. It may not be in your control but without these issues being addressed I don't think we can attract many people to return.

1. An environment where all Sri Lankans can live with dignity and pride. Most of the minority communities are being marginalized and made to feel like second or third class citizens. We are trying to have a national identity only using the majority community but what we need to realize is that most of the other communities are also Sri Lankans and have the same passion and love for the country.

2. Ensure that law and order is applied to everyone in the same manner without bias. Today we see a situation where justice and the institutions are manipulated shamelessly to benefit those in power. It's worse than even an African dictatorship now. Would anyone want their children to grow up in such a culture of lawlessness? Besides with our focus on tourism how many tourists would want to come to a country where murderers of tourists are running scot-free?

3. Address the rampant and in-your-face corruption that is taking place in every sphere. To get anything done - schools, getting any service, customs, investing, winning a contract - you name it - you have to pay commissions or blood money. I personally know of instances where expatriates came here to invest after the end of the conflict but went away disappointed because they were asked to pay commissions everywhere and even were directed on how to conduct their business according to the whims and fancies of some people. It is the main reason foreign investment is not coming into SL - because investors are finding more conducive and attractive environments elsewhere like Vietnam, Myanmar, Malaysia etc.

4. Focus the efforts and funds of the government on priority issues like healthcare, education, power and ICT infrastructure and on other economic priorities. If you look at the budget allocations for the last few years you can see where the priorities lie. What we see today is that colossal funds are wasted on unnecessary tamashas and ego-boosting activities. We need to provide an environment where businesses and economic activity can function efficiently without disruption.

5. Provide a framework where opportunity is provided to citizens with honest effort and hardwork to succeed. You shouldn't need to go after everyone in power to get a teaching appointment or a job to suit their qualifications. You shouldn't need to get permission from everyone to start an enterprise.
Lift the bureaucratic red-tape and obstacles that is prevalent in most of the government institutions (maybe except for a few institutions like the Passport office, vehicle revenue licensing etc)

I haven't even touched upon the opportunistic exploitation of our heritage and environment which is happening so that we can make a fast buck. If this continues even the tourism industry in which we are currently putting most of our eggs into - may not be viable in future.

Again, this is not trying to be pessimistic or trying to undermine any of your efforts. I reiterate what you have started is a wonderful initiative. My point is we would need to focus our attention on the above issues if we want to realistically succeed in our efforts.

All the best to the work in Sri Lanka initiative.

Sanjiva Weerawarana said...

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I agree with all of them to a great extent.

At the same time, its important to not describe utopia and set the bar so high so it becomes an excuse for people not to return. There will alway be differences and most definitely problems. However, there are advantages too always. Returning is a complex decision that needs to be made rationally and objectively by each person/family.

On corruption - I believe its a two way street. I've been back now for nearly 12 years and never had to participate in corruption to get things done. I started WSO2 nearly 8 years ago and we now have more than 225 employees - never once have we had to resort to corruption to get things we needed to do, done.

People who complain of corruption are often people who participate in it or use it to look for some unfair advantage ... such as avoiding a traffic ticket :-). Afterwards they complain saying everything is corrupt! Duh - you're 50% of the problem!

No of course its not always like that either- your friend's case is probably 100% true. But as with anything, proof by example is not very useful as a way to take a position on complex issues. There are examples of all of your conditions being violated even in the US .. and still the US is considered to be (and indeed is) a great place to live. Examples are useful but its important to step back and look at the bigger picture in these things.

Peter said...

Nice initiative. Probably more suited for people returning to SL. If my wife and kids would like this kind of adventure, it might have been an option for me/us too. But maybe I am romanticizing it a little bit too much.

Peter said...

Nice initiative. Probably more suited for people returning to SL. If my wife and kids would like this kind of adventure, it might have been an option for me/us too. But maybe I am romanticizing it a little bit too much.

Chamara Peiris said...

This is a really good initiative! All the best & we will give our support too.